Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jasper Jones - Craig Silvey

With a zillion blogs out there reviewing novels, music and the like, it can be difficult at times to know if your opinion is actually....your, opinion.

So without sounding particularly clever or unique, these are my thoughts. This review *does* contain spoilers.

Jasper Jones is not really my kinda novel. It's set in 1960's Australia, and is basically a whoddunnit/coming of age mix of Twin Peaks (who killed Laura Palmer, sorry Wishart??), To Kill A Mockingbird and Stand By Me.

Jasper Jones is narrated by Charles Bucktin, a likeable teenage boy who is approached by Jasper Jones one night at his bedroom window. Asking Charlie to follow him into the bush, Jasper reveals a very very dead teenager called Laura Wishart, hanging from a tree. As Jasper is half white, half aboriginal and considered the town naughty boy, he understandably (and rightfully) predicts that he will be blamed for her death. The boys decide to sink Laura to the bottom of the river and go looking for the real murderer, and things go from there.

There are lots of things to like about the novel. As many have already said, the banter between Charles and his Asian best friend Jeffrey Lu, is often very funny. Cute little passages about who really is the best superhero, Batman or Superman, punctuate the novel and really do ring teenage boy-true. Jeffrey is a little cliche and one-note in his characterisation, but he's so likeable and well drawn, that you can forgive Silvey for that.

Jasper himself, who is the misunderstood outsider, is flat and one dimensional. Other than the fact he was happy to sink his girlfriend's body to the bottom of the river to save his own ass, he never does anything remotely controversial, interesting, or surprising. He's so good that he's boring.

Charlie himself is more rounded. I don't always know what he's going to think or do....other than talk a lot.

One of the reoccurring themes in the book is the burden of knowledge, common to most coming of age stories of course. After Charlie sees what he cannot unsee, he goes to the library and ends up reading countless stories about murderers and crimes. Like everyone who suddenly realises the world can be a very shitty place, Charlie wants to know why. But there are no real answers, and the revelation of what really happened to Laura on the same night he finds out a few unsavoury parental secrets, serve to swiftly end Charlie's childhood.

Overall, the read is pretty quick and entertaining, I just couldn't really get too excited about it.

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